Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Halloween in the Quirky Suburbs of SoCal

While other little girls played with Barbie dolls and latest version of baby 'cry and wet', I collected Universal Monster Collectibles and stayed up late at night to watch the horror host, "Moon-a-Lisa" introduce the classic Universal Studio Monster (black and white) movies.

One of my favorites was the 1932 version of The Mummy.

For those unfamiliar with the movie, I've created a plot summary:

In 1921 a field expedition in Egypt discovers the mummy of ancient Egyptian prince Im-Ho-Tep, who was condemned and buried alive for sacrilege. Also found in the tomb is the Scroll of Thoth, which can bring the dead back to life. One night a young member of the expedition reads the Scroll out loud, and then goes insane, realizing that he has brought Im-Ho-Tep back to life. Ten years later, disguised as a modern Egyptian, the mummy attempts to reunite with his lost love, an ancient princess who has been reincarnated into a beautiful young woman.

Yes, a new version was made in 1998.  However, I prefer Boris Karloff, and the stylized special effects. The flashback scenes in ancient Egypt were designed to resemble a silent film, with no dialog, exaggerated make-up and gestures, and a faster camera speed, to suggest the great antiquity of the events portrayed. 

And, if you are an avid fan of this genre, you will know that this is the only Universal monster of the time without a fictional antecedent. Large segments of the movie are scene-by-scene parallels of the movie Dracula (1931). An ankh symbol (the ancient Egyptian glyph for "life") is substituted for the crucifix of the earlier movie. Even Edward Van Sloan's character, Dr. Muller, is quite analogous to his Dr. Van Helsing from the vampire film.

So, it comes to no surprise that I really, really look forward to Halloween.  I throw a 'pre-Halloween' Spooktacular party for all of the youngsters in my family.  This year: Bloody Fingers (lean franks in a bun), Cat's eyes (glowing yellow jigglers with a sliver of a red grape), goblin toes, bat cupcakes, and bubbling witches' brew. (Visit my Pinterest boards for more info).

This is why I penned my Fun & Sassy Fantasy series.  I wanted to have a good time.  And more importantly, I wanted my readers to share in the fun!  My next novella, "Bell, Book, and Gargoyle" is set in Hollywood.  And "Walk Like An Egyptian" plays homage to my favorite Universal Studio classic.

Since I reside in Southern California, I can spent a day or two at Universal Studios.  I'm sorry so that much of the back lot was destroyed in a fire several years ago.  However, the pond that doubled for a Louisiana swamp in The Mummy's Curse, and provided close-up scenes while filming The Creature from The Black Lagoon, is still part of the guided tour.

I hope you enjoy my current release: "Here Today, Zombie Tomorrow" #10 on this weekend's Holiday list of most downloaded free novels on Amazon.  I am also being interviewed by
 I.B. Nosey, reporter on October 30th (http://feelingnosey.blogspot.com).  Please to login and participate in the fun (I.B. did mention prizes).

And, in case you are wondering. . . yes, I do collect Monster High Dolls :-).  (I am still searching for the Zombie doll).

Please visit my website: www.novelsbyconnievines.com  or click on: http://about.me/ConnieVines

Happy Halloween to all of my readers,


Monday, October 27, 2014

In search of the Naga by Vijaya Schartz

My next novel in the Curse of the Lost Isle series, tentatively titled BELOVED CRUSADER, is scheduled for early 2015 from Books We Love. In that novel, the villain is a Naga. For this medieval fantasy romance, I needed a shape shifter to do the will of the Goddess, one that could attack on sacred ground.

I considered a Djinn, or a demon, but dismissed them as overused. Besides, demons cannot take human shape, and they cannot function on sacred ground. So I kept digging for something that would resonate with the serpent symbols of the Pagan beliefs of the time.

Then I remembered the strange bas-reliefs found in ancient temples in India, and the legends of the Naga. Although these are not depicted as legends, but as historical facts, according to these ancient texts. These looked very much like Melusine the Fae when her curse transforms her into an Ondine, once a month, and she becomes a serpent from the waist down.

Naga in India means python. The ancient Naga were a gentle people, half human and half serpent, who could take human form and travel between dimensions. But my research revealed that among them was once a male Naga who had a predilection for human females and bloody murder. So much so that he was forever banished. His name was Sadangula, and he is the villain of my next novel.

I like a good villain, and Sadangula certainly fits the profile. One wonders if such a creature did not inspire later descriptions of the devil.

So, look for a twisted shape shifter to wreak havoc among the Crusaders and threatening my heroine, in the next installment of the Curse of the Lost Isle series, BELOVED CRUSADER.

In the meantime, I'm having fun writing the story, and researching as I go, because no matter how much research I do in advance, I still research every detail as I go, because I think historical accuracy is foremost, even when writing medieval fantasy.

Wishing you a great Halloween. Have fun, and stay clear of Sadangula if you happen to meet him on the night when ghouls and demons roam the streets.

Vijaya Schartz
Romance with a Kick

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Tricia McGill—there’s no place like home.

Or is there? 

It occurred to me lately that I live in a very confined area. I don’t drive distances as I once did, and tend to stay nearer home. A lot of this is due perhaps because the roads aren’t like they used to be in what us older people refer to as “the good ol’ days”. I’ve towed an 18 foot caravan around Australia when my husband had to give up driving after one of his early strokes, but as much as I would love to take off, and still envy folk who take to the highways and byways of this beautiful country I call home, I couldn’t stand the hectic pace on the roads these days.

My pondering came about after reading Sandy’s post of a day or so ago when I commented that if I returned to my hometown I’d be hard-pressed after so many years to find more than about six people apart from family and a few friends who would remember me. Of course my hometown was London and to be more specific Highbury in Nth London, which was no small town by any stretch of the imagination.

I then pondered on the fact that perhaps I am a homebody who likes to be in familiar places, but then I started to think about the places around the world I have visited and it occurred to me I’ve been quite a traveller in my time. 

My first trip in a plane was to San Sebastian in Spain. In those days a trip to anywhere in Europe was considered very extravagant. My sister was getting married at the end of that year and I was to be married soon after, so we took the opportunity to travel before settling down. While there we took a bus trip to Madrid, where we walked out of a bullfight in disgust after about half an hour. I guess we only expected all the grandeur of the parade and never considered the poor bull was going to die a slow death. I have to say here that we were told afterwards it was a very poor fight and the matador was not considered very good. We also went on a bus trip to a coastal resort in France. I can’t recall exactly where but do remember the horrendous drive where the driver seemed intent on killing us all, driving along mountain roads like a kamikaze pilot.
That's me on the right--at San Sebastian
After my marriage my husband and I drove every year to Devon or Cornwall. For anyone who knows that area of England my favorite places were Crantock or Lynton/Lynmouth. I expect both have changed considerably since the 60s.

Of course the biggest journey of all came when we migrated to Australia. We opted to come by sea, and sailed on the Fairstar, a recently refitted liner, in 1966. The sea trips from England to Australia were abandoned long ago, so we were very fortunate. It took exactly four weeks. Now when I refer to the Good Old Days you will understand what I mean when I tell you that along the way we went on a side trip to Cairo and the Pyramids at Giza. In those days ships traveled through what was then called The Suez Canal. We left the ship and stayed overnight in Cairo. Next morning we were up early and took a camel ride to the nearby pyramids. Then we visited the museum where the stand out was Tutankhamen's artifacts. Next we went by bus to Giza to see the Great Sphinx and pyramids. We met up with the ship again and continued on our journey. All this for 8 pounds sterling!

My husband went back to England about six times over the years, but I only returned once and that was in 1975. On the return trip we stayed overnight in Singapore. 

I’ve traveled extensively in Australia, been right around the coastline once, up the inland road to Darwin, over to the west a couple of times traveling across the Nullarbor Plain. I’ve stroked a dolphin in the sea at Monkey Mia in WA, visited Uluru in the red center, and swam in the warmest, clearest water you can imagine off the Great Barrier Reef, walked through magnificent rain forests, driven across unmade roads and along highways, seen a platypus swimming in his natural Tasmanian habitat, and emus and kangaroos running free.  I’ve been across to Tasmania more times than I can remember, sometimes by air and other times on the ferry. For years we towed a caravan—our preferred means of travel as we could then take our dogs along. My husband would have spent all his days on the road, but I was always glad to get home, to sleep in my own bed. 
A boab tree near Derby WA        
Silverton, near Broken Hill (Many movies have featured this pub and the walls are lined with the pictures of stars and celebrities)      

Strahan Tasmania (where we stayed in a haunted cottage--I swear I saw the ghost)

So, back to where I started, there is obviously no place like home for me. But then home is where the heart is. My early years were spent in a tenement house in Nth London where I was surrounded by love and had no idea that we were not rich. But after my mother passed away that ceased to be home so anywhere my husband and I were together was home. I will remain in this house until they carry me out. My heart is here.

Tricia McGill's books can be found on her Books We Love page:

Or her web site:

Friday, October 24, 2014

A visit to All Hallows Eve in the 18th Century, by Diane Scott Lewis

To celebrate the coming of Halloween, and for my historical novel Ring of Stone, I researched ancient customs in Cornwall. Here is an abridged excerpt where my heroine, Rose, slips out in the night with her brother on All Hallows Eve to witness the rising of the spirits:

Rose opened the back door to the inky black. A lantern winked not far off. "That should be Mr. Poldeen." Her heart skipped and she stepped out into a cold breeze that whipped her face. Her brother Michael rushed past her toward the lantern.

The caretaker, Mr. Poldeen, tipped his hat when she came close. "Are you ready, Miss Rose?"

"Of course, let us proceed." She walked beside him. The lantern bobbed a circle of light as they approached the stream. Poldeen took her hand and helped her over it. Such a casual, polite gesture, yet her skin heated at the touch of his strong callused palm.

"Hurry!" Michael ran ahead, beyond the light.

"Your brother is quite anxious to find out about the spirits this night." Amusement filled Poldeen’s voice.

"I’ll be honest with you, Mr. Poldeen. I haven’t been very daring when it comes to this stone circle. But I’ve yet to understand why." She listened to make certain she still heard her brother’s footsteps.

"It comes from the same feeling as in St. Petroc’s. You should know, as like there, the ring has secrets, but is not evil."

How could rocks and stones have the same aspects as human beings? A tiny part of her worried that they’d experience nothing tonight, and the ring held no magic.

"Well, I’m here, and intend not to demure." She stumbled over a stone. He grasped her arm and held it. Again, she had that urge to lean into him. What had come over her with this man?

They reached the field. The breeze ruffled the grass. The ocean surf slapped the cliffs in the distance, like a living entity, breathing in and out.

"Michael, stay with us," Rose called when her brother, a murky outline, started to tramp over the grass. "Mr. Poldeen, please tell us some of tonight’s custom, won’t you?"

He waited until Michael rejoined them. "This be the end of the old year, or Samhain, meaning summer’s end, an’ the beginning of the new. The Celtic god straddles the two, and hopes to pierce the veil to see what comes."

Rose stared toward the cliff outline where the ring stood shrouded in darker shadows.

Poldeen set down the lantern. The light spread over their shoes. The salty wind flapped their coats like night birds. "The living can travel to the underworld, but all must return to their rightful place at cockcrow. If you have faith in the legend, this be the perfect time for your ancestors who died here to search for you."

"Senara died somewhere else. But Mrs. Trew insisted she was buried here." Rose shivered as the wind cut deeper. The darkness pressed in around her.

"Let’s walk over to the stone." Michael hopped up and down, rubbing his hands together.

"Let us do that, if you wish, Miss?" Poldeen picked up the lantern and crooked out his arm. Rose took it and they stepped across the damp grass. Michael again hurried ahead.

The cliffs were framed against the starry sky. Poldeen lifted the lantern until a blot of light trailed over the crags and across the stone circle, which looked quiet, innocuous.

"I read," Rose absorbed the heated closeness of his body, yet his nearness made her jittery—or maybe it was the unusual situation, "that the ancient Celtic view of time is a cycle. So tonight, this eve of the new year represents a point outside of time, when the natural order dissolves back into primordial chaos, and prepares to reestablish itself in a new order."

"’Tis true. The Celts see tonight as the time when they can view any other time, past or present. But the church, now they say not to hold a feast for the unblessed dead, only those hallowed, made holy. That’s why she’s All Hallows Eve." He halted. They stood only a few yards from the ring. The wind whistled through it like a flute.

Rose inhaled a deep, slow breath when the whistle turned to a moan.

"Can you hear that?" Michael leaned forward. "Is it Malscos calling to Senara?"

"Of course it isn’t. I want to step closer to the circle." Rose slid her foot forward in the grass. Hand fisted, this was her moment. She’d touch the ring and banish her qualms.

A flapping noise sailed over her head. Rose blinked and stared up. A bird or bat of some kind—wings fluttering in the shades of blackness. Her bonnet slapped at her cheeks and she stifled a gasp.

A figure, hunched over, hair flying, moved along the cliff top. A loud laugh sounded. Or was it more of a cry?

More rustling sounded, then feet running. Rose squeezed up against the caretaker before she realized she’d done it.

"It’s a woman." Michael ran up and grabbed her other hand. His fingers felt cold and trembled a little. "Senara! Is that you?"

Footsteps raced by, leaving the scent of herbs. Poldeen swung up the lantern.

The figure darted closer. Hair streamed in wisps about a round face, an arm thrust up to shield their eyes.

"They were here! The spirits have gone back now!" rasped a voice. "You be too late."

To find out what happens, purchase Ring of Stone.

Or visit my website: http://www.dianescottlewis.org

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